Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Re'eh.

Elevating the Sparks

When the L‑rd your G‑d shall broaden your borders, as He has promised you, and you will say, “I shall eat meat,” for your soul shall desire to eat meat—you may eat meat to your soul’s desire.

Deuteronomy 12:20–23

There are those who contest the morality of eating meat. What gives man the right to consume another creature’s flesh?

Indeed, there is no such natural right. When man lives only to sustain and enhance his own being, there is no justification for him to tamper with any other existence to achieve this goal. Man does have the right to consume other creatures only because, and when, he serves as the agent of their elevation.

Therein lies the deeper significance of the verse quoted above, “And you will say, ‘I shall eat meat,’ for your soul shall desire to eat meat.” You may express a desire for meat and be aware only of your body’s craving for the physical satisfaction it brings; in truth, however, this is the result of your soul’s desire to eat meat—your soul’s quest for the sparks of G‑dliness it has been sent to earth to redeem.
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Free Choice

This week’s Torah reading begins: “Today I am setting before you a blessing and a curse: The blessing that you heed the commandments of G‑d and the curse if you do not heed the commandments.”

G‑d does not force man to accept the commandments, nor will He stand in man’s way if he choose not to follow them. The choice is ours.

Why did G‑d make it that way? Why did He give man a potential to disobey and ignore Him?

The reason is that without such a challenge, of what value would man’s Divine service be? It is precisely when man has an alternative, when he lives in a world where G‑dliness is not open and apparent, and his personal desires conflict with the Torah’s decrees, that his choice to serve G‑d is truly virtuous. For man to serve G‑d under such conditions requires him to reach to the core of his being, and summon up powerful spiritual energies. Such service is an achievement, one which brings satisfaction to both man and G‑d.
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G‑d is Everywhere

This week’s Torah reading focuses on the establishment of a central place of worship for the Jewish people, describing how G‑d “will choose to have His name dwell” in one particular place. And there, we are commanded to “celebrate before G‑d.” The verse is referring to the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where G‑d’s presence was revealed.

Now G‑d is everywhere. There is not a place in this world where He is not present. Why then must His worship be centralized?

One of the answers given is that the Temple is for us, not for Him. G‑d knows that we are continually in need of spiritual inspiration. After all, we are living in a material world and we have natural desires that draw us away from the spiritual. R. Levi Yitzchak, the Berditchever Rebbe, once said: “G‑d, what do You expect from man? You put the pleasures of this physical world in front of his eyes and spiritual concepts in books. Try doing it the other way; put spirituality before him and material consciousness in the books and see if man will sin.”

For these reasons, G‑d wanted man to have one place where he could sense the spiritual, where he would be uplifted above material concerns. Therefore He “chose to have His name dwell in the Temple” and commanded man to journey there at least three times a year. For the awareness of G‑d experienced there, would stay with him even after he returned home.
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Tzedakah and the Month of Elul

The commandment to give tzedakah (charity) is included in the Torah portion of Re’eh, where the verse states: “Should there be amongst you a pauper… do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother. Open your hand generously.”

The section of Re’eh is invariably read on the Shabbat on which we bless the new month of Elul, or on Rosh Chodesh Elul itself. Since all Torah portions are related to the timeframe in which they are read, it follows that it is especially appropriate to give tzedakah during the month of Elul.

This may be derived from the following statement by the Rambam: “Although sounding the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a decree for which the verse does not state a reason, nevertheless, it also hints at something specific, i.e., ‘Awake, you who sleep… and better your ways….’

“Each and every person is to see himself… as half righteous... By performing one mitzvah, he tips the scales.

“For this reason, all Jews customarily increase their giving of tzedakah and performance of good deeds and mitzvot."

Since the Rambam specifies the custom of tzedakah, it follows that although all aspects of Torah and mitzvot are to be strengthened during this period, one should first and foremost increase one’s giving of tzedakah.
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True Charity

A business owner isn’t satisfied with the clientele who find him; he publicizes his goods and services. His work also has no end; it is constantly on his mind. To work in Torah and charity means going beyond the realm of ‘obligation’ – developing self-motivation for personal growth, and exerting relentless effort to improve the spiritual and physical welfare of others: